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Melissa Name Meaning: Origin, Popularity & Nicknames

Learn about the name Melissa including the meaning, gender, origin, popularity, and more.

Melissa Overview

  • Meaning: When translated from ancient Greek, Melissa means “honeybee.” It is also the feminine form of the Gaelic Maoilíosa, meaning “Servant of Jesus.”
  • Gender: Melissa is traditionally feminine.
  • Origin: Melissa originated from ancient Greek mythology, though the name also has roots in Gaelic and Hittite.
  • Pronunciation: Melissa is pronounced, “muh-LIS-uh.”
  • Popularity: The name Melissa is popular in the United States and Europe. It holds the 372nd spot in the US,
  • Nicknames: Elle, Ellie, Issa, Lisa, Lissa, Lissie, Lissy, Mel, Meliss, Mellie, Mels, Miss, Missie, Missy.
  • Variations: Malisa (Greek), Malissa (Greek), Melessa (Greek), Melisa (Greek), Mélisse (French), Meliza (Greek), Mellisa (Greek), Melosa (Spanish).
  • Namesakes: Melissa Fumero (American actress), Melissa Joan Hart (American actress), Melissa McCarthy (American actress).

What Does Melissa Mean?

Melissa is a name derived from the word “mélissa,” which is Greek for “honeybee.” The root of the word comes from “meli,” meaning honey (1).

Variations of Melissa were also popular elsewhere as early as the 17th century BCE. The name comes from the Hittite word “melit,” which also means “honey.”

The lemon balm plant, Melissa officinalis, also derives its name from ancient words for “honeybee.” Its name is shorthand for the ancient Greek word melissóphyllon, which translates to “bee leaf.”

The name Melissa developed somewhat independently in countries such as England and Ireland. The feminine version derives from the masculine name Maoilíosa, which is Gaelic for “Servant of Jesus.”

What Is the Origin of the Name Melissa?

According to ancient Greek mythology, the name first belonged to the nymph Melissa. The bees taught her how to use honey, and she passed this knowledge on to the rest of humanity.

Melissa was also a nurse to the god Zeus, giving the name a deep religious significance. She raised him on goat’s milk and honey thanks to her close relationship with the bees. As such, honey was a common temple offering for those seeking favor with the gods.

The term “melissae” was commonly used to refer to priestesses in ancient Greece. In particular, the melissae represented deities of life, love, and fertility. These priestesses primarily attended the temples of Demeter, Persephone, and Apollo.

How Popular Is the Name Melissa?

The name Melissa has been used since the early 1900s, but it didn’t gain popularity until the 1960s (2). By 1967, the name made it to the top ten list in the United States. It peaked between 1977 and 1979 when it was the second most popular baby name in the country.

Though the name dropped off in the 1980s, Melissa remained very popular. Up until 2004, it was one of the top 100 baby names in the US for girls. Its decline has led to it ranking 372nd for girls in 2021.

How Do I Pronounce Melissa?

Melissa is pronounced, “muh-LIS-uh.” There should be an emphasis on the middle syllable instead of the first or last.

Some people mistakenly pronounce the first syllable of this name as “may.” However, the “e” should produce a soft “uh” sound rather than a hard “a.”

Is Melissa a Boy or Girl Name?

Traditionally, Melissa is a girl’s name. In some cultures, it derives from a male name. For example, the Gaelic version of Melissa comes from the masculine Maoilíosa, or “Servant of Jesus.”

Variations of Melissa

There are several variations of the name Melissa that have evolved since its inception. Most versions change the spelling while keeping the same pronunciation. Some of the most popular variations include:

  • Malisa (Greek)
  • Malissa (Greek)
  • Melessa (Greek)
  • Melisa (Greek)
  • Mélisse (French)
  • Meliza (Greek)
  • Mellisa (Greek)
  • Melosa (Spanish)

Nicknames for Melissa

Many Melissas choose to shorten their name by using a nickname. There is a wide range of common nicknames, such as:

  • Elle
  • Ellie
  • Issa
  • Lisa
  • Lissa
  • Lissie
  • Lissy
  • Mel
  • Meliss
  • Mellie
  • Mels
  • Miss
  • Missie
  • Missy

Similar Names to Melissa

There are several names similar to Melissa, though they may have different meanings and pronunciations. Some popular alternatives are:

Middle Names for Melissa

Middle names are a good way to create a unique, personalized, and meaningful name. If you’ve settled on Melissa but aren’t sure about middle names, consider:

Sibling Names for Melissa

If you already have a child named Melissa, you may be wondering what to call their sibling. There are plenty of names that work well alongside Melissa:

For a brother:

For a sister:

Famous People Named Melissa

The name’s popularity in the 80s has ensured that there are several famous Melissas, particularly in the acting world. Some of the most notable people to have this name include:

  • Melissa Benoist: American singer and actress.
  • Melissa Etheridge: American singer-songwriter.
  • Melissa Fumero: American actress.
  • Melissa George: Australian actress.
  • Melissa Gilbert: American actress and director.
  • Melissa Hough: American ballet dancer.
  • Melissa Joan Hart: American actress.
  • Melissa McBride: American actress.
  • Melissa McCarthy: American comedian, actress, producer, and designer.
  • Melissa Trainer: American astrobiologist.
  • Melissa Villasenor: American actress and singer.

Melissa in Popular Culture

Melissa is a fairly popular name in modern pop culture. There are several books, shows, and movies that use it for prominent characters, such as:

  • Melissa Burke: Character on the show “Melissa and Joey.”
  • Melissa (Missy) Egan: Character from the movie “I Know What You Did Last Summer.”
  • Melissa Fitzgerald: Character from the movie “We’re the Millers.”
  • Melissa Hastings: Character from the TV series “Pretty Little Liars.”
  • Melissa McCall: Character on the TV show “Teen Wolf.”
  • Melissa Walker: Character from the movie “Time Cop.”
  • Melissa ‘Teensy’ Whitman: Character in the film “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.”

Melissa FAQs

Here, we’re going to answer some of the most common questions that people have about the name Melissa.

Is Melissa a Biblical Name?

While Melissa is a popular name among Christians, it does not appear in the Bible. Instead of Hebrew, its roots are Greek.

Is There a Saint Melissa?

People of the Catholic faith commonly invoke Saint Melissa of Boughbond to heal skin conditions such as scabies. Her feast day is 16 December.

Are There Plants Named After Melissa?

Melissa refers to an entire genus of perennial herbs in the Lamiaceae family. Perhaps the most famous of these is lemon balm, which is commonly used as a calming tonic.

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